In early 2017, we became aware of publicity around the growing number of women and girls experiencing period poverty in New Zealand. Living in a country that is leading the world in many respects, it was confronting to read stories in the news about Kiwi women and girls missing work, school or other activities simply because they did not have access to affordable or hygienic sanitary products.
We decided to investigate further and arranged to sit down with a representative from the Christchurch based charity Aviva (formerly the Christchurch Women's Refuge).
Our contact at Aviva, Julie McCloy, explained that sanitary items are a necessity that many women on limited incomes simply cannot afford.
Women experiencing financial hardship due to the effects of family violence and difficult personal circumstances, were simply cutting tampons and pads from their shopping lists. Julie also explained that while donations of foods and other non-perishable items to Aviva were common, sanitary items were often things people did not think to donate to charity.
What had always seemed like an inconvenient but necessary product to us had clearly become a luxury and inaccessible product from some - and we wanted to do something to change this.
We formulated our social enterprise on a simple idea - subscription tampons, with every order sent to subscribers resulting in the donation of a box worth of tampons to women in need – enabling women to support other women.
Our mission today is exactly the same as it was when we founded Necesse; to ensure that no woman is further marginalised financially and socially simply because of a biological necessity.
After further research into the tampon industry we discovered the environmental impacts that many conventional sanitary products have on the earth. We wanted to supply a high quality product to our consumers, one that we would be proud to use and market, which is why we made the decision to offer tampons made from organically grown cotton. This means the cotton in our tampons is produced without the use of pesticides and herbicides in farming production, reducing our environmental footprint and also ensuring that the farmers who grow the cotton used in our tampons are not exposed to nasty chemicals and associated health inequalities.
Organic cotton is also naturally absorbent, hypoallergenic and biodegradable, so once used, it breaks down faster than synthetic or non-cotton counterparts.
Unfortunately organic cotton tampons are not manufactured anywhere in New Zealand so we needed to look overseas to find a supplier.
After a highly selective search, we secured a reliable and industry leading supplier based in Europe, who had almost a century of quality production experience.
They ticked all the boxes for us, having excellent management systems, a sound corporate responsibility profile and wide ranging compliance records and certifications.
Although we couldn't produce our tampons here in New Zealand, we wanted to keep as much of our supply chain local as was possible and viable for our social enterprise. We teamed up with an amazing local packaging supplier, which meant our product could be packaged in Christchurch, with packaging made Christchurch.
During this business research phase, we entered a start-up challenge with our idea which enabled us to flesh out our business plan for our social enterprise, solidifying our aim to establish a sustainable business that was focused on having a positive social and environmental impact. We ending up coming runner up in the competition, while also launching a crowdfunding campaign to raise $15k through subscription pre-orders.
The campaign was a success and allowed us to build a wonderful community of initial supporters and secure the funds to order our first shipment (100,000 tampons to be precise!)
Things have continued to grow for us at Necesse and after the arrival of our first product shipment into New Zealand, we were able to launch sales direct from our website at the beginning of 2018. We have since donated more than 3000+ tampons to our charitable partner Aviva and other organisations such as the Christchurch and Wellington City Missions.
Our core business plan hasn't change since and Necesse continues to provide a convenient subscription service for the delivery of ethically produced, quality organic cotton tampon products to our amazing community of subscribers, while at the same time, donating product with every order to women in need.
As we work to increase market share in an industry largely dominated by conventional brands owned by large multinationals, we hope to grow our brand awareness and subscriber base so that we can bring on charitable partners throughout New Zealand.
We are passionate about the work we do at Necesse and the community we have built. Every new subscriber helps to address the issue of period poverty by making a tangible positive impact on the lives of other kiwi women - so if you haven’t already - join our collective of women supporting women today.